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MT 19 October 2014

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maltatoday, SUNDAY, 19 OCTOBER 2014 10 News LAST Thursday 16 October marked the second anniversary since John Dalli's forced termination as Euro- pean Commissioner for Health by the outgoing President of the Commis- sion, Jose Manuel Barroso. Dalli was forced to resign on the strength of a covering letter to the OLAF (EU anti-fraud agency) inves- tigation, which however stated it had no direct evidence but circumstantial evidence that Dalli was aware of a €60 million bribe sought to reverse the EU ban on smokeless tobacco. Dalli, a former Nationalist minister, believes that the report of the EU's anti-fraud agency was a set-up to de- rail the tobacco directive and always insisted that he was a victim of a coup by the tobacco lobby and various po- litical interests in Brussels and Malta conspiring against him. Confidential documents published by the Observer revealed the strong lobbying operation waged by tobac- co giant Philip Morris International (PMI) to combat the proposed tobac- co products directive, employing 161 people on this mission. The Observer revealed how delay- ing the directive had been a key goal of the tobacco lobby, spending almost £1.25 million in expenses in just un- der a year for the lobbyists' meetings with MEPs. PMI targeted farmers' organisations, retail bodies, and trade and business associations to reach top decision makers in both the European Parliament and the European Com- mission. Only a couple of weeks ago, the France 2 investigative programme 'Cash Investigation' suggested that the tobacco industry could have forced the removal of Dalli, quoting from the 600-page internal document from PMI. Another slide is titled "Strategy: pos- sible Commission reverse tactics", featuring the objective to "achieve ex- treme measures by stealth". The crucial piece of the document were slides showing a strategy to "tar- get European Commissioner", using Brussels and international stakehold- ers, and the media in both pan-Euro- pean as well national media. Despite the fact that the case has taken a visible physical toll on him, Dalli remains defiant in exposing the truth behind his "frame-up". "These two years have been terrible from a personal point of view. I was exposed to global ridicule and a hate campaign in Malta was waged against me. My health suffered but worst of all, I saw my family hurt a lot," Dalli says. I meet him at his office in Porto- maso, where he is armed with print- outs of the latest online news reports published about him, as well as a copy of a short document published by the Nationalist Party. "On the other hand, these two years revealed many aspects of how the dif- ferent European institutions work and how the citizen fares when he con- fronts them. I had first hand experience of what it is when these turn against you, espe- cially when they group together." Calling it "a persecution" by OLAF and its chief, Giovanni Kessler, be- cause he stood up to them, Dalli in- sists he is not alone in this. "During these 24 months I've had people contacting me, frustrated, be- cause they found themselves alone and simply could not fight against what happened to them. I chose to fight." "But I have also learnt to fight back and I think that now the pieces are coming together. Hopefully, we will see what has really happened and who were the true instigators and collabo- rators at local level." Dalli is not alone in believing that conflicts of interest and corporate in- terests took over European decision- making. Green MEPs Bart Staes and José Bové accuse Barroso of having "given in to the manipulations of the tobacco industry by sacking" Dalli. The doubts behind the termination of Dalli are so strong that the two believe the saga will become "Barrosogate". "Many have tried to wipe these rea- sons under the carpet, and a lot still stays there. But a few facts are clear. The OLAF report on the so called at- tempts by Dalli to change the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) in exchange for cash, was manipulated, partial and biased, full of lies and illegal methods," the two wrote in Eu- They point out that the Swed- ish tobacco company Swedish Match, a PMI-daughter that started the whole affair, lied on several occa- sions. "When the OLAF report and other documents were leaked in 2013, it became more and more clear that the whole affair was a set up to get rid of commissioner Dalli and by doing so delay the TPD. All this was clearly in the interest of companies like PMI that had set up a massive lobby cam- paign to weaken, delay or stop the new anti-smoking legislation," Staes and Bové add. According to Dalli, these two MEPs are not out there to support him but to fight against the institutions that prove themselves as not being trans- parent. "They are fighting for transparency. And the fact is that what happened in my case is not transparent at all." An investigation by OLAF's supervi- sory commit- tee on the Dalligate, two years later… Former European Commissioner John Dalli is still determined to piece together the circumstances which – he claims – brought Big Tobacco together with Maltese collaborators to remove him and spike strict anti-smoking laws. By MIRIAM DALLI J'accuse... John Dalli remains adamant that foreign interests and Maltese instigators came together in hounding him out of Brussels. He accuses OLAF director Giovanni Kessler (first from left) of having breached all rules of procedure in his investigation on the bribery allegations against Silvio Zammit (second left), while former Commissioner of Police John Rizzo ignored OLAF's recommendation that it should be Gayle Kimberley to have been charged in court. It can safely be said that his arch-nemesis today is outgoing European Commission president José Manuel Barroso (right) who dismissed him too easily. years later…

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